The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
December 3 to December 14, 1945

Fourteenth Day: Thursday, 6th December, 1945
(Part 7 of 9)


Then we come to the bribe. "The Fuehrer declares the German- Polish problem must be solved and will be solved. He is, however, prepared and determined, after the solution of this problem, to approach England once more with a large, comprehensive offer. He is a man of great decisions, and in this case also, he will be capable of being great in his action" - and then, magnanimously - "he accepts the British Empire and is ready to pledge himself personally for its continued existence, and to place the power of the German Reich at its disposal, on condition that his colonial demands, which are limited, shall be negotiated by peaceful means." His obligations to Italy remain untouched.

Again he stresses irrevocable determination never to enter into war with Russia. I quote the last two paragraphs:

"If the British Government would consider these ideas a blessing for Germany - "

THE PRESIDENT: Why do you not read the first few lines of paragraph three?

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: Yes, I did summarise it, paragraph three. "He also desired to express the irrevocable determination of Germany never again to enter into conflict with Russia."


LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: I quote the last two paragraphs.

"If the British Government would consider these ideas a blessing for Germany, and also for the British Empire, peace might result. If it rejects these ideas, there will be war. In no case will Great Britain emerge stronger; the last war proved it. The Fuehrer repeats that he himself is a man of ad infinitum decisions by which he is bound, and that this is his last offer."

(A recess was taken.)

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: I had just finished reading the offer from Hitler to the British Government, which was TC-72, Number 68, and which becomes Exhibit GB 65.

The British Government were not, of course, aware of the real object that lay behind that message, and, taking it at its face value, they wrote back, on the 28th August, saying that they were prepared to enter into discussions. They agreed with Hitler that the differences must be settled, and I quote from Paragraph 4:

"In the opinion of His Majesty's Government, a reasonable solution of the differences between Germany and Poland could and should be effected by agreement between the two countries, on lines which would

[Page 169]

include the safeguarding of Poland's essential interests, and they recall that in his speech of 28th April, the German Chancellor recognised the importance of these interests to Poland.

But, as was stated by the Prime Minister in his letter to the German Chancellor of 22nd August, His Majesty's Government consider it essential for the success of the discussions, which would precede the agreement, that it should be understood beforehand that any settlement arrived at would be guaranteed by other powers. His Majesty's Government would be ready, if desired, to make their contribution to the effective operation of such a guarantee."

I go to the last paragraph on that page, Paragraph 6:-

"His Majesty's Government have said enough to make their own attitude plain in the particular matters at issue between Germany and Poland. They trust that the German Chancellor will not think that, because His Majesty's Government are scrupulous concerning their obligations to Poland, they are not anxious to use all their influence to assist the achievement of a solution which may commend itself both to Germany and to Poland."

That, of course, knocked the German hopes on the head. They had failed by their tricks and their bribes to dissuade England from observing her obligations to Poland, and it was now only a matter of getting out of their embarrassment, as quickly as possible, and saving their face, as much as possible. The last document becomes Exhibit GB 66. And I put in also Sir Neville Henderson's account of that interview, TC-75, which becomes Exhibit GB 67.

As to that interview, its only importance is that Sir Neville Henderson again emphasised the British attitude, and that they were determined in any event to meet their obligations to Poland. One paragraph I would quote, which is interesting in view of the letters that were to follow. Paragraph 10:

"In the end I asked him two straight questions: 'Was he willing to negotiate direct with the Poles?' and; 'Was he ready to discuss the question of an exchange of population?' He replied in the affirmative as regards the latter, although I have no doubt that he was thinking at the same time of a rectification of frontiers. As regards the first, he said he could not give me an answer until after he had given the reply of His Majesty's Government the careful consideration which such a document deserved. In this connection he turned to Ribbentrop and said, 'We must summon Field Marshal Goering to discuss it with him.'"

Then in the next paragraph, Sir Neville Henderson finally repeated again to him very solemnly the main note of the whole conversation, so far as he was concerned.

I pass to the next document, which is TC-72, Number 78, which becomes Exhibit GB 68.

The German reply, as I outlined before, was handed to Sir Neville Henderson at 7.15 p.m. on 29th August. The reply sets out the suggestion submitted by the British Government in their previous note, and it goes on to say that the German Government are prepared to enter into discussion on the basis that the whole of the Corridor, as well as Danzig, are returned to the Reich. I quote particularly the next to the last paragraph on the first page of that document:-

[Page 170]

"The demands of the German Government are in conformity with the revision of the Versailles Treaty in regard to this territory, which has always been recognised as being necessary; viz., the return of Danzig and the Corridor to Germany, and the safeguarding of the existence of the German national group in the territories remaining to Poland."

It is only just now, as I emphasised before, that that right has been recognised for so long. On 28th April, his demands consisted only of Danzig, of an autobahn, and of the railway.

The Tribunal will remember the position which he is trying to get out of now. He is trying to manufacture justification by putting forth proposals which under no circumstances could either Poland or Great Britain accept. But, as I said before, he wanted to make doubly certain.

I go to the second page, and start with the third paragraph:-

"The British Government attach importance to two considerations: (1) that the existing danger of an imminent explosion should be eliminated, as quickly as possible, by direct negotiation, and (2) that the existence of the Polish State, in the form in which it would then continue to exist, should be adequately safeguarded in the economic and political sphere, by means of international guarantees."

On this subject, the German Government makes the following declaration:

"Though sceptical as to the prospects of a successful outcome, they are, nevertheless, prepared to accept the English proposal and to enter into direct discussion. They would do so, as has already been emphasised, solely as the result of the impression made upon them by the written statement received from the British Government that they too, desire a pact of friendship, in accordance with the general lines indicated to the British Ambassador."

And then, to the last but one paragraph:-

"For the rest, in making these proposals, the German Government have never had any intention of touching Poland's vital interests or of questioning the existence of an independent Polish State." - these letters rather sound like the letters of some common swindler and not the letters of a great nation - "The German Government, accordingly, in these circumstances agree to accept the British Government's offer of their good offices in securing the dispatch to Berlin of a Polish Emissary with full powers. They count on the arrival of this Emissary on Wednesday, 30th August, 1939.

The German Government will immediately draw up proposals for a solution acceptable to themselves and will, if possible, place these at the disposal of the British Government, before the arrival of the Polish negotiators."

That was at 7.15 in the evening of 29th August, and, as I have explained, it allowed little time in order to get the Polish Emissary there, by midnight, the following night. That document, TC-72, Number 78, was Exhibit GB 68.

The next document, Sir Neville Henderson's account of the interval, summarises what had taken place, and I quote particularly Paragraph 4:

"I remarked that this phrase" - that is the paragraph about the Polish Emissary being there by midnight, the following night - "sounded like an ultimatum, but after some heated remarks both

[Page 171]

Herr Hitler and Herr von Ribbentrop assured me that it was only intended to stress the urgency of the moment - when the two fully mobilised armies were standing face to face."

That was the interview on the evening of 29th August. That last Document, TC-72, Number 79, becomes Exhibit GB 69.

Again the British Government replied, and Sir Neville Henderson handed this reply to Ribbentrop at the famous meeting on midnight of 30th August, at the time the Polish Emissary had been expected. I need not read at length. The British Government reciprocate the desire for improved relations. They stress again that they cannot sacrifice the interest of other friends in order to obtain an improvement in the present situation. They understand, they say, that the German Government accepts the condition that the settlement should be subject to international guarantee. They make a reservation as to the demands that the Germans put forward in their last letter and they are informing the Polish Government immediately; and lastly, they understand that the German Government are drawing up the proposals. That Document TC-72, Number 89 will be Exhibit GB 70. For the account of the interview, we go to the next document in the Tribunal's book, TC-72, Number 92, which becomes GB 71. It is not a very long document. It is perhaps worth reading in full:

"I told Herr Ribbentrop this evening that His Majesty's Government found it difficult to advise the Polish Government to accept the procedure adumbrated in the German reply, and suggested that he should adopt the normal contact, i.e., when German proposals were ready, to invite the Polish Ambassador to call, and to hand him proposals for transmission to his Government, with a view to immediate opening of negotiations. I added that if this basis afforded prospect of settlement, His Majesty's Government could be counted upon to do their best in Warsaw to temporise negotiations.

Ribbentrop's reply was to produce a lengthy document which he read aloud in German, at top speed. Imagining that he would eventually hand it to me, I did not attempt to follow too closely the sixteen or more articles which it contained. Though I cannot, therefore, guarantee accuracy, the main points were:" - and I need not read out the main points. I go to Paragraph 3.

"When I asked Ribbentrop for the text of these proposals in accordance with the undertaking in the German reply of yesterday, he asserted that it was now too late, as the Polish representative had not arrived in Berlin by midnight.

I observed that to treat the matter in this way meant that the request for the Polish representative to arrive in Berlin on 30th August, constituted in fact an ultimatum, in spite of what he and Herr Hitler had assured me yesterday. This he denied, saying that the idea of an ultimatum was a figment of my imagination. Why then, I asked, could he not adopt normal procedure and give me a copy of the proposals, and ask the Polish Ambassador to call on him, just as Hitler had summoned me a few days ago, and hand them to him for communication to the Polish Government?

In the most violent terms Ribbentrop said that he would never ask the Ambassador to visit him. He hinted that if the Polish Ambassador asked him for an interview it might be different. I said that I would,

[Page 172]

naturally, inform my Government so, at once. Whereupon he said that while those were his personal views, he would bring all that I had said to Hitler's notice. It was for the Chancellor to decide.

We parted on that note, but I must tell you that von Ribbentrop's demeanour during an unpleasant interview was aping Hitler at his worst. He inveighed incidentally against the Polish mobilisation, but I retorted that it was hardly surprising since Germany had also mobilised, as Herr Hitler himself had admitted to me yesterday."

Nevertheless, Sir Neville Henderson did not know at that time that Germany had also already given the orders to attack Poland, some days before. The following day, 31st August, at 6.30 in the evening, M. Lipski, the Polish Ambassador, had an interview with Ribbentrop. This document, the next Document TC-73, Number 112, becomes Exhibit GB 72, and is a short account in a report to M. Beck:

"I carried out my instructions. Ribbentrop asked if I had special plenipotentiary powers to undertake negotiations. I said I had not. He then asked whether I had been informed that on London's suggestion the German Government had expressed their readiness to negotiate directly with a delegate of the Polish Government, furnished with the requisite full powers, who was to have arrived on the preceding day, 30th August. I replied that I had no direct information on the subject. In conclusion, Ribbentrop repeated that he had thought I would be empowered to negotiate. He would communicate my demarche to the Chancellor."

As I have indicated already, it was too late. The orders had already been given, on that day, to the German Army to invade.

I turn to C-126. It is already in as Exhibit GB 45. Other portions of it were put in, and I refer now to the letter on the second page, for the order "Most Secret Order." It is signed by Hitler and is described as his "Directive No. 1 for the conduct of the war," dated 31st August, 1939. Paragraph 1:

"1. Now that all the political possibilities of disposing by peaceful means of a situation on the Eastern Frontier which is intolerable for Germany are exhausted, I have determined on a solution by force.

2. The attack on Poland is to be carried out in accordance with the preparations made for 'Fall Weiss,' with the alterations which result, where the Army is concerned, from the fact that it has in the meantime, almost completed its dispositions.

Allotment of tasks and the operational target remain unchanged.

The date of attack - 1st September, 1939.

Time of attack - 0445 (inserted in red pencil).

This time also applies to the operation at Gdynia, Bay of Danzig and the Dirschau Bridge.

3.In the West it is important that the responsibility for the opening of hostilities should rest unequivocally with England and France. At first, purely local action should be taken against insignificant frontier violations."

Then it sets out the details of the order which, for the purpose of this Court, it is unnecessary to read. That evening, at 9 o'clock, the German radio broadcast the terms of the German proposals about which they were so willing to enter into discussions with the Polish Government. It set out the proposals at length. It will be remembered that by this time, neither Sir Neville Henderson, nor the Polish Government, nor their Ambassador

[Page 173]

had yet been given their written copy of them, and it is indeed a document which is interesting to read, or to read extracts of it, simply as an exhibition or an example of pure hypocrisy. I refer to the second paragraph. " Further, the German Government pointed out that they felt able to make the basic points, regarding the offer of an understanding, available to the British Government by the time the Polish negotiator arrived in Berlin."

Now, we have heard the manner in which they did that. They then say that "instead of the arrival of an authorised Polish personage, the first answer the Government of the Reich received to their readiness for an understanding was the news of the Polish mobilisation, and only toward 12 o'clock on the night of 30th August, 1939, did they receive a somewhat general assurance of British readiness to help towards the commencement of negotiations. Although the fact that the Polish negotiator expected by the Government of the Reich did not arrive, removed the necessary conditions for informing His Majesty's Government of the views of the German Government as regards the possible basis for negotiation - since His Majesty's Government themselves had pleaded for direct negotiations between Germany and Poland - the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ribbentrop, gave the British Ambassador on the occasion of the presentation of the last British note, precise information as to the text of the German proposals which would be regarded as a basis for negotiation, in the event of the arrival of the Polish Plenipotentiary." And, thereafter, they go on to set out the story, or rather their version of the story of the negotiations over the last few days.

I pass to the next but one document in the Tribunal's book, TC-54, which becomes Exhibit GB 73. On 1st September, when his armies were already crossing the frontier and the whole of the frontier, Hitler issued this proclamation to his Armed Forces:-

"The Polish Government, unwilling to establish good neighbourly relations as aimed at by me, wants to force the issue by way of arms.

The Germans in Poland are being persecuted with bloody terror and driven from their homes. Several acts of frontier violation, which cannot be tolerated by a great power, show that Poland is no longer prepared to respect the Reich's frontiers. To put an end to these mad acts, I can see no other way but from now onwards to meet force with force.

The German Armed Forces will with firm determination take up the struggle for the honour and the vital rights of the German people.

I expect every soldier to be conscious of the high tradition of the eternal German soldierly qualities and to do his duty to the last.

Remember always and in any circumstances that you are the representatives of National Socialist Greater Germany.

Long live our people and the Reich."

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.